The Northern Inuit Dog is a hybrid breed with a debated background, but most agree that the Husky, Malamute, and German Shepherd Dog are part of their ancestry. Other theories include Samoyeds and Canadian Eskimo Dogs. Though their origin is a mix, they’re now only bred with other Northern Inuit Dogs by breeders seeking to secure purebred status for this hybrid. Calm, friendly, and intelligent, these dogs may be a great addition to your family.
Despite the nickname and appearance of “wolfdog,” there is no actual wolf in their recent ancestry. Though they’ve been popular for decades, especially among people wanting dogs who look like wolves, their popularity spiked with their casting in HBO’s television series Game of Thrones as direwolves.
Unfortunately, not all who purchase Northern Inuit Dogs end up keeping them, and they end up in shelters and rescues. So please, opt to adopt!
While Northern Inuit Dogs may look like wolves, their temperament is much different. They’re often great family dogs and will not show aggression towards their humans. The flip side of their intense loyalty is they may suffer separation anxiety, so they would best fit an environment where someone is home most of the time or with another canine companion. They have a stubborn streak and may be difficult to train, so these dogs would be best for experienced pet parents. Since they are so active, they would also prefer a house with a yard.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Hybrid DogsHeight:23 to 32 inchesWeight:55 to 110 poundsLife Span:12 to 15 years
More About This Breed
- Northern Inuit Dogs are hybrid dogs. They do not currently have purebred status with the American Kennel Club.
- Northern Inuit Dogs come in a variety of colors, including white, black, grey, sable, and apricot, and they can be a mix of those colors, too.
- Northern Inuit Dogs shed a decent amount, especially when transitioning from between seasons. Their fur should be brushed two or three times a week. They may not be the best choice for allergy sufferers.
- Northern Inuit Dogs don’t do well when left alone long periods of time, and they may suffer separation anxiety, so they would do best in households where someone is home most of the day or where they have a canine companion.
- Northern Inuit Dogs have very high energy. They will need one long walk or two shorter walks every day. They should be getting at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise daily.
- Northern Inuit Dogs usually get along very well with children. Because these dogs have high energy and are on the larger side, supervision is recommended with young kids.
- Northern Inuit Dogs get along well with other dogs, and they get lonely if left by themselves for a long time, so a canine pal might be a great idea. However, their high prey drive may not make them a good choice for homes with small pets, like cats.
There are two origin stories of the Northern Inuit Dog, both of which may be true. Despite the location and exact blend in each story, the modern Northern Inuit Dog is its own distinct breed, and the Northern Inuit Society (NIS) claims to breed them only with dogs of the same hybrid breed, rather than mixing the original parent breeds, making the modern Northern Inuit quite distinctive.
While they are not yet recognized as their own purebred breed with the American Kennel Club, this is something the NIS has been working towards. It’s interesting to note that most other mixed breeds are still bred from their purebred parents — occasionally with other same mixes, but this is not the norm — making the Northern Inuit Dog an unusual case.
Aligned with the heyday of mixed breeds, in the 1970s and 80s, the Northern Inuit Dog was the answer to people wanting a domesticated dog that was as wolf-like as possible. Although, while their appearance may be similar to wolves, their temperament is very different. But that has not decreased their popularity, which has only risen, especially since their appearance as “direwolves” in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Indeed, their loyal, friendly nature makes them much better-suited to family home life than their wolf lookalike cousins.
Northern Inuit Dogs are considered medium-to-large. Males are usually markedly larger than females, with a height of 23 to 32 inches and weight of 79 to 110 pounds, versus a height of 23 to 28 inches and 55 to 84 pounds, respectively.
Some dogs may be smaller or larger than average for their breed.
Northern Inuit Dogs are very friendly and loyal, and they’re much more likely to make friends with strangers than to be good guard dogs. They’re great family pets, especially if you can train and socialize them early.
While they are not recommended for first-time dog parents due to the higher challenge of training them, they do know to respect authority once they are trained, especially from the “alpha” of your family pack or person who spends the most time with them.
Much like the wolves they’ve been bred to look like, they have a tendency to howl more than bark. This can also be addressed with early training. Northern Inuit Dogs are very intelligent, intuitive, and active, so they thrive with lots of time outside (in temperatures below the mid-70s Fahrenheit), including walks and play time every day.
As long as Northern Inuit Dogs are getting enough exercise, they’ll also be happy relaxing with family indoors. They’re playful and social creatures, so the more interaction for them, the better! They do not do well when left alone long periods of time, and they may suffer separation anxiety, so they would do best in households where someone is home most of the day or where they have a canine companion.
Northern Inuit Dogs are typically pretty healthy animals, with a rather long life span for their size. While most are generally healthy, some may be prone to a few medical issues, which is why it’s important to maintain good care and regular veterinary checkups.
Some of the conditions Northern Inuit Dogs may encounter include:
- Orthopedic conditions (such as hip or elbow dysplasia)
- Chondroplasia (dwarfism)
- Note: all Northern Inuit Dogs with this reported trait have been removed from the breeding pool, so this is a less likely trait as time goes on.
- Addison’s disease
- Cryptorchidism (retained testicles)
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Note: all Northern Inuit Dogs with this reported trait have been removed from the breeding pool, so this is a less likely trait as time goes on.
Northern Inuit Dogs are not low-maintenance dogs. They will need you or a groomer to trim their nails as needed, which can range from about once to twice a month. It’s also good to check their ears for redness or irritation about once a week.
Brushing their teeth a few times a week is also a good idea to promote good dental health. You can ask your vet to show you how to do any of these tasks.
Northern Inuit Dogs have very high energy. They will need one long walk or two shorter walks every day. Additional play time is also recommended, including activities like agility training to stimulate their minds and bodies. An ideal day, in the mind of a Northern Inuit Dog, would be to play outside with you from sunrise to sunset. They should be getting at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise daily.
They benefit emotionally from one-on-one bonding with you, too, which will keep them happy and healthy. They also do well relaxing indoors with the family, as long as they’re getting enough exercise outside.
An ideal Northern Inuit Dog diet should be formulated for a medium- to large-sized breed with high energy.
As with all dogs, the Northern Inuit Dog’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. These dogs can be prone to sensitive stomachs, too. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Northern Inuit Dog’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs — including weight, energy, and health — to make a specific recommendation.
Coat Color And Grooming
Northern Inuit Dogs come in a variety of colors, including white, black, grey, sable, and apricot, and they can be a mix of those colors, too.
Their double coat is dense, coarse, waterproof, and plush to the touch. Their fur has a natural oil to it, to help it stay waterproof, but they do not need to be bathed often — only as needed if they get dirty. They shed a decent amount, especially when transitioning from between seasons. Their fur should be brushed two or three times a week.
Northern Inuit Dogs’ fur is best-suited for cooler temperatures. While they can tolerate warm temperatures, they really should not be in very hot weather longer than necessary. You should move them inside with air conditioning, or at least a fan, if it gets very hot. The low 70s Fahrenheit is about the top of their comfort level.
Your Northern Inuit Dog may also wish to take a swim every so often, if at all possible.
Children And Other Pets
Northern Inuit Dogs usually get along very well with children. They are great family dogs, loyal, friendly, and playful. Because these dogs have high energy and are on the larger side, supervision is recommended with young kids (really, with all dogs and other animals), and it’s important for children to learn how to interact properly with their dogs, too.
Northern Inuit Dogs get along well with other dogs, and they get lonely if left by themselves for a long time, so a canine pal might be a great idea. However, their high prey drive may not make them good contenders to mix with small animals in or outside of the home.
When Northern Inuit Dogs are puppies, play can be a bit rough, and throughout their lifetimes, they can have a stubborn streak. Early socialization and training are key to bringing out the best in these dogs. Training can be more challenging with this breed, so the earlier you start, the better.
People often purchase Northern Inuit Dogs without understanding the challenges they can bring. For that reason, some of these dogs may end up in the care of shelters and rescues.
If you’re looking to adopt, the Northern Inuit Society has its own rescue set up. You may also try Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue, a rescue with a mission of rehoming “wolfdogs,” including Northern Inuit Dogs and other wolf-like pups.